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An Interview with Author Bekah Fly

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Bekah Fly is a poet, artist and musician originally from NYC. She has performed at Nuyorican poet’s cafe, the Brooklyn Museum, Museo Del Barrio and has been published in Spoon River as well as Saul Williams’ “A Mixtape.” Fly has been battling auto immune illness (chronic Lyme disease and environmental sensitivity) for the past decade, resulting in her living outside for long stretches of time. Her work is informed by the surrealist graffiti of her childhood as well as the wilderness songs of the Mohave desert where she lived outside and the Texas forest.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I was blessed to grow up in NYC, in a building that was subsidized for artists so that from a young age the spirit of an artist was celebrated. As a teenager in NYC I became part of an organization called Urban Word and had amazing mentors like Rachel Mckgibbens and Roger Bonair-Agard who changed my life and influences my work to this day. Poetry has always felt like my original language, the safe space between what I was feeling and how to identify it, cause it to move and alchemize.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

This book is a collection of poems, some spanning from the past decade when I first became chronically ill and some more recent. With the chronic illness that I have and the amount of politics surrounding it, having friends who have died as a result of not having care provided by the state as well as struggling to heal myself has made me deeply committed to putting out work. I have always felt a responsibility to the world, in relation to my third eye, meaning that from a young age I had a sense of channeling something larger than myself that could startle people and invoke a sense of beauty and purpose to the experience of the mundane and painful.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The book’s title “Drawing the Blue part of the Flame” came from a story I read about an artist relative of mine, a painter named Harvey Dinnerstein who participated in civil rights protesting with Martin Luther King, drawing and painting what was happening. Whenever I have seen footage of Martin Luther King giving speeches I’ve been struck by a sense of blue flame in his spirit, the fearlessness, the most core part of fire. There’s a line in a poem in this book talking about Harvey drawing the blue part of the flame in Martin Luther King, and I suppose that can be taken in multiple ways.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

When I am writing poems for patrons on my site,

I write monthly poems for those who subscribe to that tier. I am always laughing at myself because the artist without fail who unlocks the poem in me when I’m having trouble accessing it is Lana Del Rey. I’ve heard her described on a tv show recently as the “goddess of sadness” I also listen to a lot of Killah Priest, “Heavy Mental” is on repeat a lot while I’m writing.

Describe your dream book cover.

Some of my favorite artists are Kelly Einbinder, Frida Kahlo, Basquiat and this mysterious graffiti artist whose tag name is “ugly child” I have no idea who “ugly child” is but their tag name resonates with me so hard, I’d love to connect with them for some book cover art, but yes, a combination of all these artists would be my dream, like a mad genius tea party.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

Though it is certainly not a secret that I have these illnesses, I would love for readers to be educated on chronic Lyme disease and environmental sensitivity. As well as continuing to take precautions during this ongoing pandemic so that myself and especially the other vulnerable people in my life have a safer world.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

Some of my go-to RX poem Meds are Yusef Komunyakaa, June Jordan, fellow spoonie Kerry Giangrande is an incredible poet, Rachel Mckgibbens, Gala Mukomolova, Saul Williams, Tahani Salah and so many more.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

I hope that readers feel inspired. The poems and moments in art that inspire me the most are moments when the hard heart gets shaken up enough to feel startled and feel like, okay, I’m glad I’m here in this world. I truly believe in poetry as medicine and I hope I can bring even a tiny bit of that 🙏

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